What do changes to the Heavy Vehicle National Law mean for you?

Published: 15 November 2019

The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) regulates the use of heavy vehicle for the purposes of transport in all Australian states and jurisdictions (with the exception of WA). In October 2018, significant changes were made to the HVNL legislation. 

These changes altered the existing Chain of Responsibility (CoR) obligations of companies involved in heavy vehicle transport activities, by removing the “deemed liability” concept under the law and reformulating the obligations as an overarching duty of care (DoC) in terms of ensuring the safety of a business’ transport activities.

The “deemed liability” concept as it stood under the HVNL prior to this change operated to pin liability on parties who were involved in the supply chain for vehicle-related offences (i.e. excessive speeding, fatigue offences etc) unless the party could show that they took all reasonable steps to avoid the offence occurring. 

The purpose of the changes was to bring the HVNL in line with other workplace safety legislation, which places an onus on the employer through an explicit duty of care owed to their workers and staff.

Under the new “duty of care” model, parties will be under a non-transferrable duty to ensure the safety of their transport activities, as far as is reasonably practicable for a party to do so. 

This will require the relevant parties to:

  • identify existing risks in their transport processes;
  • eliminate manageable risk within the business; and
  • ensure their (and other parties within the chain of responsibility) conduct does not lead – directly or indirectly – to:

i. contraventions of the HVNL;
ii. exceed the speed limit; or
iii. induce another party (including another party within the CoR) to contravene the HVNL.

Under the 2018 changes, offences under the HVNL have been consolidated, and three forms of breach now exist:

  • Where a party owes a DoC under the new amendments, and contravenes this DoC;
  • Where a party owes a DoC under the new amendments, contravenes this DoC and exposes an individual  or multiple people to a risk of death, serious injury and / or serious illness;
  • Where a party owes a DoC under the new amendments and engages in conduct related to the DoC which exposes an individual to a risk of death, serious injury and / or serious illness, and the breaching party is reckless as to the risk.

Penalties under the law

Breaches of the CoR under the HVNL carry heavy penalties, with a maximum penalty of $300,000 or five years’ imprisonment for individuals, and up to $3 million for corporations.

How do these changes relate to AMCA members?

AMCA members who are involved in loading or receiving goods from heavy transport vehicles, as a part of their business operations, will need to take note of these changes.

Recommendations

AMCA members affected by the changes to the HVNL should:

  • Review your company’s current transport procedures to ensure that there is no direct or indirect inducement by the company or its subsidiaries to contravene the DoC;
  • Review the company’s internal policies and procedures to ensure that they reflect the changes to the CoR; 
  • Identify areas of high risk (i.e. overloading of vehicles, driver fatigue, drivers not observing minimum rest requirements etc.) which preventative measures can be implemented to bolster safety of drivers and parties; and
  • Practically and actively ensure safety procedures are being complied with when loading and receiving from transport vehicles.

Should you have any concerns or need assistance with complying with these changes please email workplacerelations@amca.com.au